The Golden Ratio

by: Ace of Base

Eight years after their last studio release (2002's underperforming Da Capo), Swedish pop quartet Ace of Base return, minus original members Malin and Jenny Berggren, but with two new sound-alike vocalists in tow, Julia Williamson and Idol 2009 semifinalist Clara Hagman, for their fifth LP, The Golden Ratio. They may be synonymous with the dominant Europop scene of the mid-'90s, but with Lady Gaga pilfering their sound for recent single "Alejandro" and Katy Perry acknowledging them as a major inspiration for her Teenage Dream album, they couldn't have timed their long-awaited comeback much better. Produced and written by Ulf and Jonas, its 13 tracks combine the unexpectedly influential summery faux-reggae of their globe-conquering debut, Happy Nation, and the glossy dance-pop of follow-ups The Bridge and Flowers to produce perhaps the most quintessential Ace of Base record of their career. Packed with shimmering synths, dirty basslines, and gigantic pop choruses, the likes of lead single "All for You," the September-esque "Doreen," and the title track, which, in a situation of role reversal, owes a nod to Gaga's "Poker Face," are all the kind of euphoric schlager anthems you'd expect to see at Melodifestivalen. But elsewhere, they also embrace their more successful bubblegum reggae leanings on the bouncy "Blah, Blah, Blah on the Radio," the incessantly catchy "One Day," and "Mr. Replay," a carnival-style collaboration with emerging rapper Lex Marshall. Occasionally, they stray outside their comfort zone, and although the country-tinged "Southern California" provides one of the album's highlights, the plodding folk of "Who Am I?" and the schmaltzy trip-hop-lite ballad "Juliet" suggest they should stick to what they know. With the exception of the new lineup, The Golden Ratio could have been released during any point in the last 17 years, but although it fails to progress their trademark sound, it's an irresistibly melodic affair that could still provide today's more contemporary pop divas with a few more ideas. ~ Jon O'Brien

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